Italian Traditions Explored


On just my third day in Tuscany,  with students in the Sustainable Food and Environmental Systems Program, we visited two specialty food production facilities in Modena: Caseificio 4 Madonne, where they make authentic Parmigiano Reggiano, and Acetaia Giusti, a 17th generation, family-owned business and the oldest producer of traditional balsamic vinegar. What a day!

At Caseificio 4 Madonne, we watched workers manhandle 100 kg masses of curds into two bundles, each of which in a few short weeks becomes a wheel like those stacked seemingly without end in the picture. After proper ageing each, if it rings true, gets branded as a genuine wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano. The tour ended with a tasting of cheeses, “salumi”, and, of course, wine.

But the best remained: a deep dive into the history of traditional balsamic vinegar of Modena and the painstaking process of its manufacture. How deep? Our hosts found “fossilized” balsamic vinegar in a traditional clay production bottle, its age unknown. And—lucky us—we also sampled all the varieties of vinegar produced by Acetaia Giusti. And all left with bottles, including (at least this one) with some of Modena’s true “black gold”, 100 ml bottles of well-aged Giusti Extravecchio: one for my family and one as a gift.


Richard D. Ludescher, Ph.D.
Dean of Academic Programs, School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, Rutgers University